A surrogate family: Caring for a newborn while his mother recovered from COVID-19
This story was originally published in the Summer 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.
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The Providence mother-baby team is committed to ensuring that every birth is safe, special and suited to the needs of the individual patient.
Over the course of the pandemic, the team at Providence adapted to provide high quality care even in the most trying of circumstances.
When Patricia Gomez was battling COVID-19 during and after giving birth to her son, her nurses provided care and support like a family in the days following the birth.
Patricia Gomez doesn’t remember much about July 28, 2020, the day she gave birth to her son at Providence Mission Hospital while severely ill with COVID-19. But one memory sticks with her: the compassionate voices and kind eyes of her care team.
“I’m very thankful for the doctors, caregivers and the entire COVID-19 team,” says the San Clemente woman. “Everyone was helping, monitoring, checking and encouraging me.”
Almost a year later, Gomez, 31, has fully recovered and resumed a busy life with husband Ricardo and her four children, including baby Jacob. She credits Providence Mission Hospital for pulling her through the most physically and emotionally demanding time of her life. The team at Providence Mission believes that every birth should be safe, special and suited to the needs of the individual patient—even in the most trying circumstances.
Contracting COVID-19 while pregnant
Gomez was a couple of weeks from her due date when she tested positive for COVID-19. Her symptoms grew worse over the next few days.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she recalls. “Just walking to the bathroom, I was gasping for air. I had my husband take me to the hospital, and he dropped me off. He couldn’t go in because of COVID-19 restrictions.”
Gomez’s obstetrician, Leon Baginski, MD, quickly assessed the situation. He determined that the safest option for both mom and baby was to induce labor. “It was clear that she was not doing well, and she was far enough along in the pregnancy that the baby could be safely delivered,” Dr. Baginski says. “Delaying her delivery would potentially only worsen her condition and further compromise her ability to breathe.”
Gomez prayed for strength. “I was scared,” she says. “I wasn’t with my husband, and emotionally that was very hard for me. I thought, I can’t even breathe. How am I going to push? Thank God the nurses were there, helping me, supporting me. I was coughing while I was pushing. I coughed my baby out.”
Gomez got a quick peek at the healthy Jacob before he was whisked away to a newborn unit. The next day, OB nurse Stephanie Orlowski tended to Gomez while her colleague cared for Jacob in a nearby nursery, occasionally holding the infant up to a window so that Gomez could see her son.
“I remember feeling very sad that this was how this mom’s postpartum experience would be remembered,” Orlowski recalls.
Severe COVID-19 and postpartum recovery
The next day, a healthy Jacob was sent home with a relative because the Gomez family was still in quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak in their home. Meanwhile, Patricia Gomez struggled, and Orlowski grew worried as her patient’s scheduled discharge time grew near. Orlowski ordered a respiratory treatment.
“Her vital signs were terrible. Her breathing was so labored,” the nurse recalls. “Her temperature was 103 and she was severely septic.” Orlowski launched an emergency response protocol, and Gomez was taken to the COVID-19 intensive care unit.
On July 31, Gomez began improving. “I was desperate to get better,” she says. “I was scared because I had other kids. You hear stories about people with COVID-19 not getting better.”
She was discharged after almost a week in the hospital. But Gomez still had to wait another week to see Jacob, to avoid exposing the baby to the virus. “I was so excited when I finally got to see him and hold him,” she says. “It was like having him all over again.”
For Orlowski, the past year has brought new perspective to a job she has loved for decades. She joined our hospital as an OB nurse right out of school in 1986.
“You never think you’re going to go through something like this,” she says of the pandemic. “For a lot of patients, we became their surrogate families because they couldn’t have their families there. They didn’t have anyone to celebrate with.”
Gomez says she will not forget the motivation and support she drew from her baby, her family and her Providence Mission health care team. “I’m so thankful.”
Pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine
According to the CDC, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Find out more about the safety of the vaccine during pregnancy.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.